"I have been able to raise more money than any member of the House of Representatives in the history of the United States Congress."
— Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), March 24, 2011
Bachmann, who is seriously toying with the idea of running for president, has touted her fundraising prowess as a reason for Republicans to support her in a head-to-head contest with President Obama in the 2012 race. “I have been able to demonstrate broad national support,” she told Fox News.
But given Bachmann’s propensity to make sweeping statements — check out this Fact Checker column, this one and this one — we wondered about her claim. Could a three-term member of Congress really have raised more money than any member of the House in the history of the Republic?
There is no question that Bachmann is an impressive fundraiser. In the 2009-2010 election cycle, she brought in $13.5 million, according to data on the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics. Virtually all of her contributions came from individuals, with more than 50 percent from people contributing $200 or less.
In fact, Bachmann raised more money in the last election cycle than any other member of Congress. The incoming speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), raised a mere $9.8 million, according to CRP. (He also had a political action committee that raised another $1.3 million.)
Doug Weber, an analyst at CRP, ran the numbers in the center’s database, which dates back to 1989, and could find no other House member who raised as much money in a single election cycle. Generally, the top fundraiser among sitting House members topped out at about $5 million to $6 million, meaning even when adjusted for inflation, no one could match Bachmann’s single-cycle total for the past two decades. (Given the explosion of campaign spending in recent years, it is unlikely that anyone’s totals were higher before 1989, even taking inflation into account.)
Doug Sachtleben, Bachmann’s spokesman, said she was referring in her statement to the money raised in the 2009-2010 cycle. “The $13.2 million she raised in the 2010 cycle — including $12.8 million coming from individuals – as well as $5.4 million in the third quarter were both historic,” he said.
Bachmann, however, did not make such a distinction. She said she was “able to raise more money than any member of the House of Representatives in the history of the United States Congress.” On that score, she ranks high, especially for a three-term member, but she does not hold the record.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here is an indication of where Bachmann stands compared to other current members of the House in terms of total fundraising (not counting so-called “leadership PACs”), according to data on the CRP site:
— Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio): $26.4 million
— Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.): $21.7 million
— Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.): $20.5 million
— Bachmann: $19.6 million
— Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.): $18.5 million
— Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.): $17.6 million
— Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) $12.5 million
Bachmann is a prodigious fundraiser, but once again her talent for hyperbole has stretched the truth a bit. Her statement would have been accurate if she had added the words “in an election cycle.” But instead she choose to make a sweeping statement that, as of yet, is not quite true.